Friday, March 31, 2006

A Nation of Laws?

A primary concept that separates the United States of America from other nations, particularly those governed by strong men or oligarchies, is the principle of the primacy of law. No person's whims or cadre's machinations are to hold any weight in "the land of the free" unless and until they are duly processed through checks and balances into enacted law. We tout our country as "a nation of laws," in which no individual, not even the Chief Executive, stands above the law. The rights, privileges, and obligations enshrined in our founding documents are to apply equally to all citizens, and the subsequent statutes built upon that foundation are to follow this code of equality before the law also.

America has taken this obsession with law to extremes. Any law passed in Congress seems to run to hundreds or thousands of pages of picayune regulations to cover any and every situation. Added to this are various amendments and supplementary statutes, appropriations, and other rigmarole of lawmaking. Every activity must be covered by laws and regulations, so our law libraries run to thousands of volumes, which no one can possibly comprehend fully. There are so many laws in so many jurisdictions that any person at any time could be considered in violation of one or more of them.

Our near-worship of law has produced a huge number of lawyers—the U.S. has the highest number of lawyers per capita of any country in the world—and with that has come a powerful lobby that wields sometimes overwhelming influence in Washington and the state capitals. We even make law central in our entertainment; we seem to be fascinated by crime, forensic, and courtroom dramas, all of which revolve around the laws—used and abused—which govern our lives. And when elections roll around every two years or so, everything else takes a backseat to debates about who our lawmakers should be.

Yet, does it not seem ironic—understanding what we do about Americans' soft spot for law—that so many of them are quite willing to break the law when it comes to the question of illegal immigrants? Should a company fudge some numbers on their reporting to the government—prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law! Should a person drive drunk and get in an accident—take away his keys, seize his vehicle, throw him in the slammer, and let him rot! Should a politician take money under the table—smear him, fine him, imprison him, and run him out of town on a rail! However, should the government try to deport an illegal immigrant—somebody's housekeeper, gardener, or driver—why, that is inhumane!

A young lady recently called a Charlotte talk show, complaining how long and hard it was for an immigrant, legal or illegal, to get into this country through the proper channels. She proceeded to relate her sob-story about conditions in her former country—the lack of jobs, no opportunity, the repression, etc.—and it wound up with her telling the host that her mother just had to take matters into her own hands and cross the border illegally. Her justification was that, since the process was so involved and difficult, going around the law made perfect sense, and the American public should just accept it. What she was really saying was, "Would you not have done the same thing?"

The next day, on another show, a wealthy businessman called in to say that the host's views on this topic were all wet. The caller owned a company involved in agriculture, and he admitted that his firm hired illegal aliens routinely. Why? Normal Americans, he declared, would not work in the fields. Why not? The wage is too low. Well, then, why not follow the law by hiring citizens at a wage they will work for? How naïve! If he did that, he could not compete in the marketplace, and he would go out of business! According to him, the law was impractical, so he took his chances and ignored it. He would support wholeheartedly any amnesty measure that Congress passed.

And let us not forget the bureaucrats. Their line is that 11-12 million illegal immigrants live in this country already (a number that at best can be called a "guesstimate"), and rounding up, processing, and deporting that many people is both physically impossible and prohibitively expensive. Thus, they have ignored the laws already on the books for years, and should Congress pass more immigration laws, they will most likely ignore them too.

What can one conclude except that Americans love law in principle, but when the law begins to squeeze them and their accustomed lifestyles, why, it becomes perfectly acceptable to ignore, bend, or break the offending law. As Romans 8:7 says about people's attitude toward God's law—and we find that it applies equally well to man's laws—"the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." When millions of people display this self-centered attitude toward law, taking matters into their own hands, anarchy is the result (see Judges 21:25).

True, man's laws are too often poorly written and weakly enforced by those sworn to do so. However, despite America being a free country, this deficiency in the nation's, state's, county's, or city's laws does not give us the right to become scoff-laws. Americans are at heart a rebellious people (see Ezekiel 2:3-4), having given birth to this republic in civil war and fighting among ourselves at every turn, and the Founders, knowing this, wrote into our basic covenants processes for correcting bad law and bad government. Unfortunately, these measures are rarely used, as either we cannot agree on what should be done or we lack the will to carry them through. So these problems continue, and the country slides further toward chaos.

Nevertheless, we can test ourselves (II Corinthians 13:5) in regard to law. What is our attitude toward it, especially toward God's law? Is it, "Oh, how I love Your law?" Or is it, "Those laws don't apply to me?" Be honest.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Peaceful Is as Peaceful Does

Since September 11, 2001—and frankly since long before then—the Western and Islamic worlds have increasingly collided. These clashes have sometimes produced sparks, sometimes brushfires, and sometimes raging infernos, but always something fiery—even the words that fly from them are hot and angry. At the base of this conflict is opposition, not just the fact that the West is one side and Islam is another, but also that at their most fundamental levels these two antagonists are polar opposites in nearly every respect. Due to this deep-seated difference, there is little hope of any individual or any nation bringing this conflict to a peaceful resolution.

As time progresses through the asymmetrical war that pitches these two major civilizations against each other, those of us here in the West are beginning to learn more about the Muslim mind. This is the best we can do; we can never hope to understand it because it is just too alien to us. It would be like a dog trying to fathom a cat's rationale. We can certainly try to understand why Muhammad’s disciples act as they do, but we will never truly grasp the calculus of the Islamic mind. We may know what but never why to our satisfaction.

However, we have learned a few facts through tragic experience with Islamic fundamentalism. Generally, radical Muslim fundamentalists:

  • believe Allah requires them to conquer the world and place it under Islamic law, called Shariah. In other words, jihad is a major component of their religion, and they will not stop until it is accomplished or they are dead. In fact, their latest thinking is that wherever Muslims build a mosque, Islam has de facto claimed the region for itself, and jihad will proceed there through whatever means necessary.
  • cannot be taken at their word, as they will lie to non-Muslims with impunity to further jihad. Sadly, due to self-interest, most people in the West share this trait with them, making "constructive dialogue" a futile exercise.
  • set a low value on human life, even their own, which they will seemingly gladly sacrifice in Allah's service.
  • place no value on Western lives, as we are infidels. To them, killing a Westerner has the moral equivalence of stamping on a cockroach.

After 9-11, the Bush administration engaged in a public relations offensive to curry favor with the American Muslim community. The key message of that campaign was "Islam is a religion of peace," an idea that has correctly been maligned and lampooned ever since. Perhaps the promise of peace appears in the pages of the Koran, but only for adherents of Islam—and there is little evidence that even they have experienced it throughout Islam's 1,400-year existence. A brief examination of Muslim history shows a series of wars, infighting, and general mayhem ever since Muhammad sent his hordes out of the Arabian desert to slay the infidel.

Unfortunately, too many Americans—in fact, too many Westerners as a whole—fail to realize the life-and-death struggle in which our civilization is engaged. We are complacent, thinking nothing in this conflict affects our daily lives, and besides, the Islamofascists best efforts are only bee stings compared to the full might of Uncle Sam. We forget that under the right circumstances, even bee stings can be fatal. Many more of us need to wake up to the fact that our societies have a relentless enemy who is full of pent-up hatred, motivated by religious fanaticism, and unfazed by the Western values of life, liberty, fair play, tolerance, and compassion. He spits on these as proofs of Western weakness.

Why, then, are we vulnerable to the attacks of radical Islamic fundamentalists? Because we are spiritually weak, blind, and complacent! We are retreating before the Islamic thrust into our nations because we do not have the internal fortitude to resist with force and conviction. Our leaders, political and spiritual, have led us down paths of liberalism and humanism, and we have blithely followed. We have come to the point in our downward spiral that we cannot even differentiate between peaceful and bellicose attitudes among our bitterest foes!

Many of our leaders are like those who proclaim, "Peace, peace! when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:11; 6:14; Ezekiel 13:10, 16). God speaks this to the prophets and priests—the leaders—of Israel and Judah who failed to warn the people about their backsliding and the coming punishment in the form of national invasion. This failure in leadership has been the norm in our Western nations for many decades now, and society has backslid just as Israel's did. And what do we have to look forward to? The same imminent punishment they expected—and received. Notice Jeremiah 8:14-15, 17, where the prophet says:

"Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, and let us enter the fortified cities, and let us be silent there. For the LORD our God has put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD. We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and there was trouble! . . ."

"For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you," says the LORD.

If fundamentalist Islam were a religion of peace, its adherents would behave peacefully. They do not. Their religion motivates them to kill themselves and others to advance Islam. Therefore, Islam is not a religion of peace but one of war and death. It is time we recognized this and turned to God for forgiveness for allowing ourselves, our cultures, and our civilization to descend into immorality, relativism, and spiritual lethargy. It is the only true way to avoid the coming conflagration and to find the way to real peace.

Friday, March 3, 2006

The Price of Arrogance

A consistent criticism of the Bush administration has been that it is arrogant in its dealings with the media, the Democrat opposition, and even with its own allies in Congress. This accusation has again arisen in the midst of the most recent controversies over Vice President Dick Cheney's pelting of a quail hunting partner and the Dubai Ports World's contract to manage six of America's port facilities. Its arrogance, critics say, is demonstrated in its take-it-or-leave-it approach on both its statements to the press and its demands regarding legislation.

When George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the talk around Washington centered on the "new tone" the President wanted to bring to the nation's capital. He and the American people, it was said, were tired of the partisan bickering between Republicans and Democrats. It was time for mutually respectful dialogue, a pleasant change from attack ads and demagoguery. So, said the administration, the President would not engage in partisan politics but would welcome the views of both allies and enemies with equanimity. Instead of being divided, we can forge consensus solutions to America's pressing problems.

As it evolved into its current, overconfident form, the "new tone" clashed with equal arrogance in the media and among politicians. Feeling snubbed, the big media outlets like CBS, exposed regularly in its liberal bias, haughtily reported severely slanted "news"—in reality, thinly guised editorials—to make the Bush administration look as out of touch and out of bounds as possible. Democrat and Republican politicians, for differing reasons, sniffed and moaned that Bush and his cadre merely expected them to fall into line on every issue instead of persuading them with sound reason and traditional inducements (read, quid pro quo). Thus, the new tone's arrogance meets the media's and politicians' hauteur, and everyone loses, especially the American people.

As an example, at the risk of tedium, let us revisit the reason for invading Iraq. Most observers would say the Coalition of the Willing inflicted "shock and awe" on Saddam Hussein's regime because of his accumulation of weapons of mass destruction. He was a threat to his neighbors, he had used them on his own people, and he was defying the international community in failing to divulge and destroy his stockpiles. The Bush administration, including Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, and George Bush himself, made such statements hundreds of times in public speeches and interviews. This was all we heard for months as the armed forces geared up for the assault.

However, if this was a reason, it was in actuality far down the list. There were multiple reasons: the free flow of oil, the Oil-for-Food fiasco, freeing the Iraqi's to govern themselves, Saddam's human rights violations, and yes, even his support of international terrorism, particularly against Israel. But the main reason was strategic, and it was, to my knowledge, never mentioned by the Bush administration. The real reason for conquering Iraq was to drive a wedge into the heart of the Middle East. Administration analysts figured that a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq would pacify regimes in the region and bring a measure of stability through fear and uncertainty about what the Americans would do if any one of them began to misbehave. Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian National Authority, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern nations have already moderated to varying degrees out of alarm over Bush's "cowboy" foreign policy.

Evidently, the Bush administration has never admitted to its strategic plan, and even what geopolitical observers think they know of it has been deduced through actual events. The White House continued to harp on weapons of mass destruction until very little was turned up, then it began beating the "bringing democracy to the oppressed Iraqi people" drum until it, too, began to wear thin. Now it is singing the praises of the fledgling Iraqi constitution, government, and armed forces, promising to reduce troop levels as soon as the Iraqi's are ready for the GIs to leave. No matter whether it is good policy or not, this close-to-the-vest style of governance infuriates friend and foe alike because it comes across as arrogant.

What has it produced? Internal conflict, distrust, accusation, division, and endless conspiracy theories. "What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate," said the captain to Cool Hand Luke, and similarly, a President, whom many see as cocky, is in deep trouble. His cockiness has eroded his support down toward one-third of the electorate, portending bad news for his party at the polls this November.

We can take a lesson from what has happened in this instance. Clear communication is vital to walking in harmony with others. Many husbands believe that they fill their roles best as the strong, silent types, but doing so is more likely to cause a rift in the relationship because wives are left to guess their husband's reasons, motives, and desires. But they cannot read minds! And if they act on something they were forced to assume due to their husband's lack of communication, they are likely to bear the brunt of his often hurtful, divisive reaction.

Arrogance is a form of pride, which forms the basis of many sins. An arrogant person assumes that he is superior to others, and therefore, since he has the final say in matters, others just have to deal with it. Before long, such an attitude will drive all but the most devoted or sycophantic away. In the end, arrogance is a destroyer of relationships, and it almost always ends in divorce. Satan's arrogance, for instance, caused him to attack God, destroying that once-close association (see Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:17).

The price of arrogance is separation, whether separation from God, from mate, from brethren, from friends, from coworkers, etc. God counsels humility, its polar opposite, for by it one encourages unity and true fellowship. Paul writes, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3).